First and foremost, we are trial lawyers. NYCDS has been representing New Yorkers accused of crimes in Manhattan Criminal and Supreme Courts for more than twenty years. Our attorneys are among the most experienced in New York City. NYCDS defenders receive ongoing extensive in-house training. Recent law school graduates participate in a six-week training institute where they learn how to take a case to trial and win. We are committed to ensuring that every NYCDS client is appointed a trial attorney who will fight fearlessly and skillfully to represent them in the courtroom and out.
Homicide/Major Case Defense
Our homicide/major case defense unit specializes in cases where clients are facing the most severe penalty under law – life in prison. Each client is assigned a seasoned defense team that includes our most skilled trial attorneys, investigators and social workers – as well as all of the other resources that our office provides. The unit works together to defend each client’s right to a fair trial, maintain and prove their innocence, and advocate for sentences that will not result in life in prison.
Our juvenile defense team includes experienced trial attorneys and a dedicated adolescent social worker with extensive expertise representing our youth clients in both adult and juvenile courts. They understand that youth are different than adults and that our youth clients need advocates who can help them successfully navigate the criminal punishment system and limit future criminal legal system involvement. Our juvenile defense team receives specialized training about adolescent brain development, working with youth, and criminal and family law. They work diligently to avoid incarceration for our youth clients at all costs.
A strong defense requires fearless investigators who will run the extra mile to defend our clients’ rights. Our trial lawyers need to know all the facts related to the case in order to put on the best possible defense. Our team of experienced investigators pursues leads, tracks down video footage, interviews witnesses, photographs crime scenes and doggedly seek out any additional relevant information. All of this evidence is critical to ensure that every NYCDS client receives the best defense.
Our highly experienced immigration attorneys specialize in the intersection of criminal and immigration law. They advise clients and their defense attorneys on the immigration consequences of criminal legal system-involvement, up to and including deportation, and advocate with the prosecution for immigration-safe plea offers. They provide individual consults and Know Your Rights information to our non-citizen clients and, if resources permit, they may assist clients with additional immigration issues, including filing applications for benefits like permanent residency or citizenship, representing clients in immigration court, and accompanying them to ICE check-ins.
Our civil defense unit helps our clients with housing, asset forfeiture, and other civil issues. If a client is facing eviction because of an arrest or conviction, or if a client’s car, cash, or other property is seized by the NYPD, our civil defense attorneys join the criminal defense team and fight to protect their rights. The people we represent are frequently targeted by multiple systems of oppression. NYCDS civil defense attorneys ensure that our clients’ rights are protected by representing them in a wide range of civil legal issues.
DNA & Forensics
The DNA & forensics unit assists our trial attorneys with the difficult and complex issues surrounding the use of forensic evidence in criminal cases. In addition to assisting in specific cases, members of this unit attend and conduct specialized trainings for our staff. They collaborate with legal scholars, scientists, and others in the field and in the defense bar to stay current in the rapidly evolving landscape of DNA and forensic science litigation. The unit also educates the public and policymakers about the limitations of forensic science and the problems that it poses as it takes on an increasingly larger role in the criminal legal system. We are dedicated to ensuring that the voices of our client communities are represented in public discussions about the use of forensics in our courts and in the resulting shaping of policy.
NYCDS attorney specialists are seasoned trial attorneys who serve as in-house experts for the rest of our criminal trial practice. We have attorney specialists for New York County’s mental health, veterans treatment and integrated domestic violence problem-solving courts. Each of our attorney specialists receives extensive additional training in their area of expertise. They also serve on task forces and stakeholder committees, speak at local conferences, and testify at City Council about the experiences of our clients and ways to improve the criminal legal system.
NYCDS corrections specialists work directly with our clients incarcerated on Rikers Island and other NYC detention facilities around the city. The specialists are in the jails every week to provide support and monitor conditions. They work with client families and charitable bail funds to help clients make bail and expedite the discharge process in cases of delayed release from detention. The unit also advocates around issues related to detention more generally by collecting and sharing much needed data about conditions of confinement and NYC Department of Correction.
Our representation of our clients doesn’t end at the termination of the case. Our experienced re-entry social workers help our clients who are returning home from jail or prison to find employment, access education opportunities, and reestablish vital relationships with their friends, family and community.
Special Litigation & Policy Reform
We fight to make the criminal punishment system more fair and just for all of our clients through special litigation in the courts and policy reform in the state and city legislature. We partner with other public defenders, legal service providers and grassroots community organization to advocate for an end to mass incarceration, biased policing, and disinvestment in communities of color. Collectively, we saw enormous legislative reforms pass in 2019 – bail reform, discovery reform, and speedy trial reform, among others – that were the fruits of many years of advocacy and litigation by NYCDS and our partners. Learn more about our collective efforts in the In the News section.
Paralegals are an invaluable part of the legal system and of our office. A paralegal is a person qualified by education, training, or work experience to perform specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible. NYCDS paralegals provide critical support to our attorneys by conducting research, performing investigative work, directly assisting clients, organizing evidence, preparing legal documents, and coordinating court filings.
NYCDS’s administration team is the backbone of our office. From seamlessly managing court calendars and thousands of case files, to being the first face that our clients see when they enter our doors, administration ensures that our clients and their trial attorneys have what they need to fight the prosecution’s accusations and defend their rights.
Data Research & I.T.
Our I.T. team successfully develops and manages our information technology networks and data systems, protecting our clients’ privacy and ensuring that all of the digital systems that NYCDS staff rely on run smoothly. Our groundbreaking data research team analyzes and publishes NYCDS data to inform our practice and influence policy reform.